NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim September 18 through September 24, 2016, as Prescription Opioid and Heroin Epidemic Awareness Week. I call upon all Americans to observe this week with appropriate programs, ceremonies, and activities that raise awareness about the prescription opioid and heroin epidemic. Read more
The United States suffering from a tragic epidemic that is taking more lives that car accidents now. Addiction is a disease that takes a strong hold on a person and their families’ lives As a community we must address this epidemic and health crisis. Suffering from addiction is NOT a morale failing, it is a disease that affects a person’s ability to stop using. Some people start using from legitimate prescriptions and then move to illegal substances after the prescription is stopped.
As a community we need to stand together and learn about this health crisis that is taking so many lives. We need to understand and show empathy without enabling people who are suffering with addiction. We need to show love to the loved ones of addicts. We need to educate our youth and give them the tools they need to prevent or recover from addiction.
As part of Opioid Epidemic Awareness Week, the White House will host parents who have lost children to addiction, and U.S. Attorney’s Offices throughout the country will participate in more than 160 different events, according to the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy. Read more
What can you do to raise awareness, help people suffering from addiction, celebrate recovery and educate?
My three simple goals are listed below, I will write one post for each goal this week about these goals. I would love to hear you thoughts and how you can help end this epidemic.
End the stigma with addiction and overdose
Educate people on the epidemic and this health crisis
There has been a story on the news and social media about a couple who overdosed in a car with a child in the back seat. A police officer decided to take a picture of the couple and share it. And sadly this story then has promoted many people to shame the couple and addicts in general. Do I agree with the couple and what they did? Absolutely NOT! What they did was wrongs, plain and simple. Many things that addicts do is wrong, they have a physical addiction that most people can not understand or relate to. The need for drugs is so strong it changes the person’s heart and soul and leaves the person as a shell of who they once where.
Addiction can and does take a very caring and loving person and changes them to a person who only cares about getting their next drug. The get physically sick during withdrawal and suffer from this withdrawal more than many people will understand. I don’t understand but I have seen the withdrawal first hand and now how horribly it affects a person. The only thing that helps them is using again, unless they seek or are forced to get medical attention and treatment.
I am very discouraged and upset with the response to this story and many other stories. My personal goal and the goal of many people that I know and work with to fight this health crisis is to help people. Shaming people DOES NOT help anyone. It hurts the child in that car, who one day may see that picture and the comments. It lowers the chance of the person getting the help they need to get clean from drugs.
I encourage everyone to learn more about addiction. Addiction affects so many people, it may not affect you personally but the chance of you knowing someone who is suffering from addiction is high. There are so many people suffering and hiding it that you don’t know who is suffering, it could be one of your loved ones. It could be your neighbor or someone you go to church with.
Please take time to learn about addiction and open your heart to show empathy. I am not saying to enable them in their addiction, but to show empathy. Try to understand and relate to the person and their loved ones who have so many sleepless nights waiting for a call that their loved one lost their battle.
I feel we need to have laws in place like other states that will force a person into treatment and recovery. I know several people who where jailed and that helped them to get clean. They where forced into it and treatment and help was available to them to work through the withdrawal. They where provided with the tools needed to help get clean. Many have to leave and start their lives all over to get clean.
Seeing someone suffering from addiction is horrible and heart wrenching. Waiting for that call and receiving that call is something that is so hard to explain. A young life that was ripped apart, their heart changes as they are conquered by this demon.
Though a mountain of research proves addiction to be a disease of the brain, not a character flaw, the stigma surrounding it is still highly prevalent in society.
…vicious cycle: People abuse substances to cope with shame, and substance abuse is perpetuated by feelings of shame surrounding their addiction. What’s the solution?
I wanted to share a short story, which I’m sure many of you have seen or heard online.
The story goes…
A young woman went to her grandmother and told her about her life and how things were so hard for her. She did not know how she was going to make it and wanted to give up. She was tired of fighting and struggling.
Her grandmother took her to the kitchen. She filled three pots with water and placed each on a high fire. Soon the pots came to a boil. In the first, she placed carrots, in the second she placed eggs, and the last she placed ground coffee beans. She let them sit and boil, without saying a word.
In about twenty minutes she turned off the burners. She fished the carrots out and placed them in a bowl. She then pulled the eggs out and placed them in a bowl. Then she ladled the coffee out and placed it in a bowl.
Turning to her granddaughter, she asked, “Tell me, what do you see?”
“Carrots, eggs, and coffee,” she replied.
She brought her granddaughter closer and asked her to feel the carrots. She did and noted that they were soft. She then asked her to take an egg and break it. After pulling off the shell, she held the hard-boiled egg. Finally, she asked her to sip the coffee. The daughter smiled as she tasted its rich aroma. The granddaughter then asked, “What does it mean, Grandmother?”
Her grandmother explained that each of these objects had faced the same adversity — boiling water — but each reacted differently. The carrot went in strong, hard and unrelenting. However, after being subjected to the boiling water, it softened and became weak. The egg had been fragile. Its thin outer shell had protected its liquid interior. But, after sitting through the boiling water, its inside became hardened.
The coffee beans were unique, however. Faced with the boiling water, it changed the hot water, the very circumstance that brought it pain. For the coffee, when things are at their worst, it changes the situation around it. When the hours are the darkest and trials are their greatest, it elevates to another level.
“Which are you?” she asked her granddaughter. “When adversity knocks on your door, how do you respond? Are you a carrot, an egg, or a coffee bean?’”
This story reminds me of you, of all of the amazing families that are working to change how we handle addiction in our country — changing the world even through the hardest circumstances. #YouAreCoffee
P.S. Please feel free to share this story and graphic with friends and family.
I have been personally affected by the opiate epidemic. It is a health crisis that is affecting everyone in some way. This past weekend our community lost several more people to this crisis. Losing someone young is a heart ripping feeling. Watching someone struggle with the grips of addiction is living a nightmare.
You see the person you love and know slowly disappear. You see the change in their eyes. Looking in their eyes you want to reach in and hug the person you love so much but the person on the outside is different. They are fighting a battle that many people can never understand. You hug them and try to reach for that person inside to come out.
I have heard people say let the addicts die, they chose this lifestyle. Addiction started with a choice, a choice that every one of us makes. The difference is that a person with addiction can NOT stop without a lot of help. They have a need for the drug and they will do anything to get that drug like it is air itself. Addiction comes in many forms, some people over eat, so people cut themselves and there are so many other addictions. The addictions they are battling are very REAL. Like a monster inside of them that they have to fight every day, every hour.
Drugs and alcohol are so common in our society that you are confronted with it on a daily basis. Drugs may be legally prescribed by a doctor. Alcohol is at just about every event. Children are trying substances at an earlier age than ever before. Many people use substances to cover up the feelings that they are dealing with such as depression, mental illness and chronic pain. We all know that these are very real illnesses, but we don’t treat people with addiction as an illness. There is a change occurring right now where addiction is starting to be treated like the disease it is.
It’s been 11 months since we lost Amber. She was the light of my life. I remember the minute she was born. The excitement and love that filled my heart at that minute. My life changed with her birth and I learn what unconditional love is. You do NOT just stop loving someone because they are ill. You love them more.
Addiction scares me. I have two children that I am so afraid could be affected by this horrible disease. We teach them about addiction, drugs, bullying and so many other aspects of life. We want to give them the tools they need to say NO. But, saying NO is just not enough. We need to provide tools for them to use when, (yes when) they are confronted in these situations.
So, how do we do this. INVOLVEMENT. Yes, being involved in our community and our FAMILY. We must be involved and teach our children how to handle these situations. Don’t just tell them drugs are bad. Help them know what to do when they are in a situation that will pressure them. This is not easy. But we must remember that they need our help. It is much easier to help them before they become addicted than after. Sadly, we can give our children all of the tools and resources available and they still may be gripped by addiction.
Open your eyes and be realistic. Don’t think “Not My Child“, this can happen to ANYONE. Addiction does not discriminate. Addiction can affect the young and old, the rich and poor.
There are many resources available to help someone in addiction, education people to prevent addiction and also support people who love addicts. I would like to hear what resources you know of and why you feel they are valuable.
Some resources that I know of and support are listed below. Please help build this post up with valuable information for someone trying to fight addiction or to help education others to prevention drug abuse.
I wrote a post on the question “What I do what I do?“. I received some feedback that I thought was very good, “that is a big topic!”. I agree and thought let’s take this topic and think about blogging.
So, I would like to issue a challenge to my fellow bloggers. Would you write a post on the topic “Blogging – Why I Do What I Do”.
I sometimes think about why I blog. What is the purpose of me maintaining a blog? Why should I continue? Is there any value to me blogging?
I blog first and foremost because I enjoy it. I enjoy writing, I am NOT a professional writer but I enjoy writing my thoughts and putting them on a blog. It feels good to get my thoughts out and publishing them. It helps me work on my writing and it also helps me think more about what I am writing about. I don’t have many readers to my blog and that is okay. I blog for myself. If others find what I write useful, that is wonderful.
I love to involve my family into my blogging. Sometimes (well, most of the time) they don’t want to. But, we try to do a lot of it together. It may just be pictures or it may be ideas they spark in me. Having my family involved is very important. I feel it is good when my daughters try to share (with our help), it gives them good practice writing and putting their thoughts together.
I do find that blogging creates a community of like minded people. Blogging allows me to connect with people who like to blog or have the same interests. I have created a blog on my community which was very helpful during it’s time. I maintain this blog for myself. I write about various topics depending on what I am feeling and what I would like to share. Sitting down and putting thoughts on the screen and reading them helps me.
I would like to see if you, my fellow bloggers or readers would like to share “Blogging – Why I Do What I do”. Write a post on this topic. I would love to read why you blog. Add your link to the form below and please share with the tag #WhyIDoWhatIDo.
The heroin epidemic affects EVERYONE. You may not be personally affected right now but you probably know someone who is or has been indirectly.
Look at the graph below, the number of fatal overdoses has risen by huge amounts over the past few years.
I am personally affected by this epidemic and it is devastating every single day. Losing someone you love to an overdose leaves you with so much heartbreak.
What else could I have done to prevent it?
I have to live with this question for the rest of my life, among others. Seeing a life taken way too soon, questioning if you did enough. How could you have saved a life?
I was happy to see that one county in Pennsylvania is now going to classify heroin overdose as homicide and dealers as murders.
“If you chose to sell heroin, you’re killing people and you’re murdering people. You’re just as dead from a shot of heroin as if someone puts a bullet in you,” Kiessling told The Daily Item of Sunbury.
“Calling these accidents is sweeping it under the rug,” he said.
School are now stocking Naloxone in schools to help save lives. We still need to do more. People suffering from addiction need to be treated as someone with a disease. They need help. Their families need help.
This is a HEALTH CRISIS!
There is an Overdose Epidemic
One person dies every 19 minutes from unintentional drug overdose (Paulozzi, 2012).
Pennsylvania is among the ten states with the highest opioid use and overdose rates (Paulozzi, 2012).
For the years 1999—2007, drug-induced deaths were second only to motor vehicle fatalities (CDC, 2010).
Opioid overdose is preventable and treatable (reversible) through the use of naloxone (UNODC, 2013).
Well, I feel that stocking Naloxone or Narcan in schools is a great idea. We need to save lives. We also need to increase education, prevention and recovery. We need to be aware and not just act like it won’t happen. There are ways to save a life and we need to have these resources available to help.
Children are using at younger ages than ever before. We need to make sure they understand the dangers of trying drugs just once. We need to also give them the tools to deal with drugs WHENthey are confronted with them. Let’s face it, be real, they WILL be confronted, thinking they won’t is just being naive. How will your child handle that situation?
Their first experience with drugs may be from a legal prescription of a strong narcotic. YES. That is true. Children are being prescribed very strong narcotics at very young ages. Pain management can lead to addiction and has in many people of all ages. Depression and anxiety can lead to addiction. Children are prescribed drugs to deal with these very real medical issues but this can also lead to addiction and overdose.
Addiction does NOT discriminate. It doesn’t what matter your race, age, gender or financial status is in society. Addiction and fatal overdose affects EVERYONE!
So, I am not tell you anything new. This information is available everywhere.
But, I am asking you to do something.
Talk to your children and family about addiction, don’t just telling them to not use drugs. Tell them how to handle situations WHEN they are confronted, yes WHEN. Explain to them how to handle legally prescribed drugs and monitor their usage. Question if you or anyone you care for actually needs strong drugs. Ask the doctors if there are other ways to deal with medical situations. LOCK UP your narcotics! If you have narcotics in your house, secure them. Many people have legal narcotics in their house that are prescribed and used correctly. LOCK THEM UP. Children are taking them from parents and using or selling them.
Show LOVE. People that are fighting addiction need help. Don’t enable them, but love them. They are fighting a very real battle every day to not use. CELEBRATE people who are recovering. Long term recovery is possible, I know many people with long term recovering. Long term recovery is possible. I know many people in long term recovery and they fight every day to not use again. They are very strong people who want to be clean and want to contribute to society and they want to show love and help others.
I hope that you will never have to deal with the pain I have to deal with everyday. I know many people who have to deal with this same pain every day. Some have not lost their loved ones, some have. Some have to deal with the NIGHTMARE of addiction every day. They are frightened every time the phone rings, waiting for that call.
There are many organizations that can help you. Here are a few:
The fact that the DEA has selected Pittsburgh for the pilot of the 360 Strategy speaks volumes to the epidemic that we are in. This health crisis is throughout our country and right in our own backyard. The war on drugs is not working and did not work. We need to have a new strategy and I am anxious to see how the DEA implements the new 360 model.
I have spoken before about my goals as it relates to this horrible crisis and shared my story of loss. Losing Amber is something I have to live with every day, I think of her constantly and miss our conversations and laughter.
My goals are:
End the stigma with addiction and overdose
Educate people on the epidemic and this health crisis
“The 360 strategy brings together for the first time, the agencies that have dealt with this problem separately, into a comprehensive and sustained effort to not only fight drug traffickers but also to make communities resilient to their return.”
We must remove the blinders and open our eyes to see the crisis that we are confronted with. We are losing lives every day from overdoses as well as related violent crimes. Not to mention the staggering amount of people who are suffering from addiction as addicts or loved ones.
I think a very important part of the 360 Strategy is the formation of a “Community Alliance“. There are many groups in our area as well as the nation that are dealing with different aspects of this crisis. Let’s work together to raise awareness and end this epidemic.
“DEA’s 360 Strategy recognizes that we need to utilize every community resource possible to reach young people and attack the heroin and prescription drug epidemic at multiple levels,” said Tuggle. “This three-sided strategy brings together everyone who has a stake in the successful outcome of this pilot program. This could be a model for many other communities.”
I know personally that it could happen to anyone and I also know the horrible pain the accompanies addiction. Addiction is a family disease, it grips a person and controls their thoughts and soul. It affects everyone that loves a person who is addicted.
We have tried the war on drugs for decades now, it has not worked. I watched a show this week titled “Pittsburgh Smack“, it details how this health crisis is so close to home. When I say Pittsburgh, I mean the Greater Pittsburgh Area, not just the city. This is not an inner city problem, addiction is in suburbs and rural America also. Addiction does NOT discriminate, it doesn’t care what your race or social status is. It doesn’t care about your finances. It will grip you and hold you tight. Seeing how the dealers think and have no regard the lifes affected is horrible. Seeing how the addicts life revolves around drugs and the sickness they suffer without that drug is so sad.
I also watched Chris Christie speak about addiction and how we treat it. Below is the video of his speach, please watch it I feel it is very informative and hits home. This is not an endorsement for him as president, just that I felt his speech was very true on this topic.
Together we can help fight addiction, below are the three simple ways that each of us can help.
End the stigma with addiction and overdose
Educate people on the epidemic and this health crisis
I support first responders completely, the situations that they have to deal with are unimaginable and they save lives. I just feel that this story should have received comments from people with an understanding of addiction.
Narcan will NOT be a safety net for people. People that are in this level of addiction are NOT just out there getting high. They are people who are trying to get a normal feeling that addiction takes away.
When a person is administered Narcan, they are immediately put into a detox mode or “dope sick“, which prevents many people from ever getting clean.
Narcan is NOT a cure to addiction, Narcan is a way to save lives from an overdose. This should be one step in addressing the overdose epidemic, recovery must follow and sadly the person must be ready for recovery.
I am NOT an addiction specialist. I would have preferred to see this story include an addiction specialist, someone who could clarify the information in this story. First responders are there to deal with horrific incidents and save our loved ones lives, they are not expected to be addiction specialists.
I wish Narcan could have been available when I lost Amber, but it was not. Would it have caused her to lead a life of recovery? No one will ever know that… But, if it saves one person it is worth it to me.
WPXI has been doing a wonderful job reporting on Narcan and I thank them for that. I just feel this story left a lot of loose ends and could have a negative impact, which sadly means it could cost lives.
Opinions express are my own.
Image credit: http://www.myemssupply.com/Iron-Duck-36010-narcan-naloxone-kit-bag-pouch-p/36010-sy.htm